Visiting college campuses
by Maria Badami
February break is a good time for juniors to begin their college search. Visiting colleges when students are on campus is the best way to get a feeling for the school and students attending the institution. The more colleges you visit, the more specific knowledge you will gain about what you want from your college experience.
Before your visit, make sure you have registered online for both the information session and student led tour. Look over the college’s website to get a general idea about the campus, academic offerings and surrounding area. Jot down any questions you have to ask in the information session or on tour.
Upon your arrival, evaluate the campus environment. Does the campus feel too big or too small? Is it isolated or too urban? Would you feel safe walking from the library at night? On the tour, check out the dormitories, dining halls, athletic facilities, science building – any space where you would spend a great deal of your time.
Make sure you have a clear impression of the intellectual and academic environment. What is the school’s attitude toward learning? Does the college identify its learning environment as supportive and team-focused, or intense? Does the school recognize your desired major as one of its strongest subjects? What are recent graduates doing?
Learn about the social environment. One good way to do this is to pick up a copy of the school newspaper and scan the bulletin boards. What type of performers are booked? Is there a large emphasis on political guest speakers? What is the political climate on campus? How important are sports or fraternities and sororities? What clubs are organizing activities? If none of the postings are of interest to you, this college is probably not a good fit.
What type of students attend the college? Are they preppy, nonconformist, intellectual, athletic, outdoorsy? Are the students friendly? Are they positive about their school? If possible, try to grab a snack in the dining hall and watch the student interactions. Can you see yourself living with these people for the next four years?
Once you’ve finished your visit, jot down your impressions. After a few college visits, schools will start to blend together. Keep a clear list of the pros and cons of each institution. Consider taking some photos. Your visit should provide you with an impression of the school. Often this feeling is the deciding factor in your college decision.
Maria Badami, MS is a college advisor with College Direction of CNY. 7030 E. Genesee St., Fayetteville NY 315 243 6658. firstname.lastname@example.org.